For the second time, exiles passed by Greece and who now have a residence somewhere in Europe returned to the island of Lesbos. After ten days there, they address to Greek volunteers of PIKPA, the Village of All Together, a letter full of emotion and depth (see also http://lesvos.w2eu.net/).
” Letter to the friends from The village of All Together
Dear friends from the village of All Together,
first of all we would like to thank you many times for having started this wonderful idea of a solidarity welcome center! You run Pikpa now since 2012 already – which is an incredible long time, especially if we see what your challenges are every day! We came already in October last year and now once again in August with even more people to this island, one of the gates for refugees to Europe. Many of us came via Greece to Europe years ago and know by their own experience what the newcomers had to overcome and survive until they arrive here. We cannot express with words what it means to us that you try to create a welcoming space for them. When we came some of us had the good luck to be welcomed by the nobordercamp in 2009 but most of us have been only “welcomed” in Europe with police and prisons. Also later on, after our release nobody has been there to assist us to find our way to Athens, the next “station” of this journey and further on. It touches our hearts that you created a space of welcoming and hospitality – it is needed and the only possible option to overcome these inhuman borders.
We came back here to Mitilini to encourage and welcome the newcomers and to assist them on their further way. The last days have been a great experience for us. It was possible for us to meet and talk with hundreds of newly arriving refugees and to provide them with information, contacts in various European countries and to give them hope. This was possible ecause there was the space for them and us to meet in Pikpa before they have been brought to be registered by the police even. We had the chance to spread as many information as possible even before. We gathered useful information in a guide (see: http://w2eu.info/pritings.en.html). We distributed them in English, Farsi and Arabic. And we would like to offer you to leave copies here and could promise to update it every year. We have been especially impressed by the incredible work the translators did every day in Pikpa. As many of us have experience in translating we have to say that this is very exhausting in a situation like I We also said farewell to many of the newcomers in the harbour of Mitilini – and they have been more than happy to be surrounded by you and us.
Nevertheless there have been also sad moments for us. We would like to share some thoughts about it with you as long as some of us are still on the island. We know very well that for most of us it is only a short period of time to be here, but some of us are anyway part of your structures and we would like to contribute to your great effort to support refugees on this gate to Europe. The sad moments are related to the situation that people will not only face a situation like in Pikpa, but they will be also confronted with coast guards, police and Frontex.
The coast guard entered daily Pikpa with the buses to take the people to the prison in Moria to register them, and in the same moment also to do a so called screening to sort out all those people they want to keep longer time in prison. Many of us know the Greek prisons. Some of us have been only recently freed from prisons on the Greek mainland after having spent many months there – without any other reason than being a refugee. We came here with one main aim: to overcome this system of prisons. We are more than sad to see that nothing has been learnt from the past and that after the closure of Pagani we see on this island a new prison for refugees.
Like many of you we are especially worried about the situation of having Pikpa used by the Coast Guard as a space to “store” newly arriving refugees there before they are brought into prison for registration – without medical treatment and for an unknown timeperiod, some already stayed for nearly one week here until the coast guard came to pick them. Like you we still say: Pikpa is an open and self organised welcome center and not a space for the police. Our impression was that the people understand very well what makes the difference.
We demand to do the registration without detention. The example of Pikpa shows that this is possible. We have seen the so called “Reception Centre” in Moria with our own eyes and we all know that it had nothing to do with reception but with imprisoning, degrading and selecting human beings. It would be only logical to just let the people freely go to any office for a simple registration to let them continue their journey to Athens as soon as possible. The few people who wish to apply for asylum already here on this island could be hosted much more easily and with fewer expenses. The new Pagani of the Troika has cost more than 3 Million of Euros and it obviously cannot be used because it was just forgotten that hundreds of people should be able to go to the toilet or take a shower while they are kept there. The place for registration cannot be in Moria. And it cannot be in Pikpa, because this is not the space of the Coast Guard the police or Frontex. The people would go out of their own interest to do the registration to board finally the ferries to Athens after a few hours of rest.
We hope that you will have the energy to enforce that Pikpa remains and will be established as a space of welcome – and to stop the police from taking over the space.
Pikpa is an important symbol of solidarity – and in the last ten days we have seen hundreds of newly arriving refugees who made an experience of being welcomed. We wish you and us together all strength and a long breath! You can always count on our support.
Welcome to Europe and Youth without Borders
August 2014 ”
NT: Pagani is the name of the former detention center on the island of Lesbos, one of the most unworthy of Greece, closed in 2009 after multiple protests. The Troika is the association of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which imposes drastic austerity policies in Greece, and at the same time finance the confinement of exiles. Thus, the new detention center on the island of Lesbos, in Moria, is called “Pagani Troika“.